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When is a jacket not a jacket? When it’s a rucksack. Confused? Well, Ruckjack is designed as a competent general use jacket that converts into a bag a matter of a minutes and performs both roles admirably but choice of materials and cut mean it’s best for utility and shorter commutes, and obviously it can only be one or the other at any one time.
The ripstop polyester shell and lining features all manner of nice detailing. There are plenty of pockets for keys, compact cameras, wallets, ipods and so on. It’s tough too, shrugging off scuffs and snags. The subtle reflectives strike a good balance, making others aware of you without drawing unwanted attention off the bike or in town.
Protection from wind and rain is impressive, blocking fierce easterly gusts and persistent April showers. Hoods generally polarise opinion and I’m in the dislike camp as a cyclist and indifferent as a walker/photographer. Aboard the bike I found it obscured my view at junctions, when checking over my shoulder and generally manoeuvering around town.
Draw cords allow accurate tailoring of the waist to stop the jacket billowing and thoughtfully it’s just long enough in the back to ward off chill. While not leaving me boiled in the bag, both shell and lining are comparatively poor at wicking moisture and show their limitations after intensive efforts in milder weather; this is amplified by a marked lack of vent panels.
Should things get a little warm, though, the Ruckjack can do its party trick. Conversion to a rucksack is pretty intuitive: simply pack the hood in on itself, close the transformation zip, attach the arms to the main body and you’re away. Capacity is similar to that of a modest single pannier, although while the rip-stop material is resilient and will cope with moderate loads without annoying sway (I managed a change of clothes, shoes, hardback A4 diary, compact camera, multi tool and a couple of snacks) it’s not designed for lugging heavy locks or similar hardware and it'll give you a sweaty back worn over longer periods.
So, when it's hot and dry you can wear it as a rucksack, when it's cold and wet it's a decent coat. And when it's changeable? Well, therein lies the rub. You can only really use it as a rucksack if you're sure it's going to be dry. Unless you pack another waterproof to wear as a coat, which rather defeats the object, you'll be stuck either without a coat or without a rucksack if it rains. Given that it's changeable in the UK for about 10 months of the year, this is a fairly big problem.
In many respects, I really liked this garment and it’s quite a clever idea that's affordably priced. Unfortunately, the design doesn’t allow it to be both jacket and bag simultaneously and while it's fine as a general purpose jacket that can also be used for cycling, more serious riding shows the fabric's limitations.
Nice concept but basic materials and lack of ventilation makes it uncomfortable for longer rides.
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Make and model: Ruckjack RJ02 Switch jacket
Size tested: L
Tell us what the product is for, and who it's aimed at. What do the manufacturers say about it? How does that compare to your own feelings about it?
The RuckJack is an outdoor, multi-discipline jacket that can be converted into a large capacity waterproof bag
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
Rip stop polyester shell and mesh lining, draw string adjustable waist, integral hood.
Can feel clammy after relatively short periods of exertion. Good weather protection both from wind and rain-although would benefit from periodic reproofing for best results.
Feels lighter than its 540g would suggest.
Great for walking and general protection from the elements but not for fast paced cycling.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
Works very well in the main but is limited by the low tech materials-were it made from the Gore-Tex family the price might be much steeper but they'd be on to a real winner.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
Nice styling, reasonable standards of manufacture and it's good as a bag.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
Lack of wicking/ventilation.
Did you enjoy using the product? As a general outdoor companion yes but not for serious riding
Would you consider buying the product? Possibly
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Possibly
Age: 35 Height: 1m 81 Weight: 70 kilos
I usually ride: Rough Stuff Tourer Based around 4130 Univega mtb Frameset My best bike is: 1955 Holdsworth Road Path and several others including cross & traditional road
I've been riding for: Over 20 years I ride: Most days I would class myself as: Experienced
I regularly do the following types of riding: cyclo cross, commuting, touring, fixed/singlespeed, mtb,
Shaun Audane is a freelance writer/product tester with over twenty-eight years riding experience, the last twelve (120,000 miles) spent putting bikes and kit through their paces for a variety of publications. Previous generations of his family worked at manufacturing's sharp end, thus Shaun can weld, has a sound understanding of frame building practice and a preference for steel or titanium framesets.
Citing Richard Ballantine and an Au pair as his earliest cycling influences, he is presently writing a cycling book with particular focus upon women, families and disabled audiences (Having been a registered care manager and coached children at Herne Hill Velodrome in earlier careers)